Playing with Matcha
Matcha seems to be just about everywhere at the moment….matcha teas, matcha lattes, matcha shots and my personal favourite - iced matcha and cucumber water.
So here at the Honey&Date HQ we decided to do some recipe testing and see what we could create with this popular green powder. But first, let’s have a little look into what the hype is all about and why matcha has suddenly appeared on our shelves.
First a little bit of history ….. The preparation of matcha has been the focus of Japanese tea ceremonies for hundreds of years and still today is associated with zen throughout the Far East. (This is one of the reasons behind matcha’s recent rise to popularity seeing as meditation, yoga and mindfulness are all becoming more and more mainstream)
What are the health benefits?
1) Antioxidant Powerhouse: With the recent rise of healthy eating, a huge variety of products are suddenly claiming to be ‘packed with’ or ‘rich in’ antioxidants. However, matcha powder puts all of these to shame, containing a phenomenal 20 times more antioxidants than pomegranates or blueberries….no ‘matcha’ for this miracle powder! These antioxidants have been linked to protection against heart disease and cancer, and is said to improve blood sugar regulation, increase metabolism, decrease blood pressure and is anti-aging. Powerful stuff!
2) Improves Cholesterol: for those who drink matcha on a regular basis, it is said to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol (that’s the bad one), and increase levels of HDL cholesterol (the good one)…hooray!
3) Memory and concentration booster: Just before the leaf-picking season in Japan, matcha growers cover their bushes to shade them from sunlight. This causes the plants to produce Chlorophyll which contains huge amounts of amino acids (the good stuff!). It is one of these amino acids, called L-theanine, which makes you more alert, and productive….who doesn’t need a little extra boost of brain power every now and then?! Fun fact - Matcha contains up to 5 times as much L-theanine than green tea!
4) Stress relief and lower blood pressure: Stress is known to produce beta wave activity in the brain which leaves you feeling agitated. But don’t you fret! That good old L-theanine we learnt about earlier triggers alpha wave activity, helping to relieve stress and promotes relaxation…hence the association with zen.
5) Detox: Matcha naturally removes heavy metals and chemical toxins from the body.
Matcha v. Green Tea
It’s pretty simple really and all down to how the two are made. When you order a green tea, parts of the green tea leaf are infused in hot water (commonly in a tea bag) and then discarded. Since water can only extract a fraction of the leaf’s benefits, we only get a limited amount into our bodies. However, when you order a matcha beverage, you are actually drinking the whole leaf in powdered form. This means that one cup can provide you with the same amount of nutrients as up to 10 cups of green tea…..as the friendly meerkat from that well known (if not slightly annoying) advert says: ‘Simples!’
Matcha v. Coffee
Now, I know what some of you are thinking….there is no way you’re going to swap your morning coffee for a murky and mysteriously green alternative. Trust me, I get it! Having lived in Italy, I am a confessed espresso lover and I can safely say that there is next to nothing that can get between me and my morning cup of home brewed Italian roast….. That said, hear me out!
Matcha contains around half the amount of caffeine compared to coffee. However, the L-theanine in Matcha improves cognitive function whilst simultaneously inducing a calm soothing effect on the brain. In other words, it provides you with prolonged ‘steady energy’, allowing you to gain clarity and focus, without the shaky and frantic feeling of the coffee rush…. so why not give it a go and see for yourself!